ADIGUN, Olalekan Waheed,

BSc (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) (Ife), MSc (Political Science) candidate, University of Lagos, Akoka.

Political analyst and strategist, Syndicated columnist and Public Relations consultant based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Tel. No: +2348136502040, +2347081901080

Email: adgorwell@gmail.com, olalekan@olalekanadigun.com





This paper looks at the recent visit of John Kerry, US secretary of state to Nigeria and its implications for the future of Nigeria-US relations. It takes a look at Nigeria-US from historical perspectives and makes forecasts for the future of the relationship between the two countries in the light of the four issues identified: trade and investments, security, military cooperation and entrenching democracy in Nigeria. The study adopts the Dependency Theory as a framework for analysis and uses same to recommend possible policies to be adopted by Nigeria in achieving a beneficial relationship with the United States and other big powers.







Political science as a discipline requires anyone doing an analysis of a phenomenon to undertake explanations and prediction of political problem(s). To attempt a prognosis of Nigeria-US relations we will have to demonstrate by providing explanations to the past events guiding the relationships between both countries- Nigeria and United States before it can provide reliable basis for predicting the dimensions for the future. If we can explain the historicity of the relationship between both countries why can we not predict, with some degree of certainty, the future patterns of both countries’ relationship? Dyke (1960: 43) argued that: “Predictions, like explanations, are based on the knowledge of relationships-relationships between thoughts and actions, means and ends, causes and effects, conditions and consequences.”

The emergence of Nigeria as an independent country in 1960 and its admission into the United Nations Organization (UN) signaled the beginning of the development of foreign policy positions on key issues of international significance. Nigeria-U.S. relations began within the context of the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union. Interaction between the two countries in the 1960s was influenced by U.S. policy of containment and Nigeria’s non-aligned posture. Containment had been used as a policy by the United States to stop the spread of communism. While communism did not gain any foothold in Nigeria, even at the height of Soviet support for the federal government during the civil war, the desires of both countries was for good and cordial relations. America’s high level of development, technology and wealth, remain a source of assistance to Nigeria. In a similar vein, the United States has benefited-and would continue to benefit-from friendly relations with Nigeria, a country that possesses a wealth of natural resources and the largest population in Africa.

With the end of the Cold War, the circumstances of Nigeria-U.S. relations have undergone significant transformation. Relations between the two countries have been dictated by the need for democratization in Nigeria, trade, the fight against the sale of illegal drugs, and peace keeping within Africa. In the specific case of peace keeping, the United States is increasingly becoming hesitant to deploy its military forces in Africa, especially after the fiasco in Somalia. This has paved the way for Nigerian peace-keeping forces to intervene in conflicts within the West African sub-region as the cases of Liberia and Sierra Leone have shown.

A cogent point about Nigeria-U.S. relation is the fact that even when political and diplomatic relations were at their worst, economic relations seems to continue unhindered. Shepard (1991: 90) observed, in relation to the diplomatic conflict between Nigeria and the United States over the independence of Angola in 1975 that “political relations remained acrimonious while economic relations were left undisturbed by the two governments and continued to flourish.”

Recently, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, paid a visit Nigeria. His visit generated a lot of controversies in public discourses. The following are questions the visit raised in the context of our topic: Why did the visit take place at this time and what does it portend for the future of both countries relations? Why didn’t President Barack Obama visit the country in person in the spirit of reciprocity, especially when President Muhammadu Buhari had paid official visits to the United States? Of what benefit(s) is the visit(s) of Obama or Kerry in the context of Nigeria-US bilateral relations which are still fraught with suspicions?


To the liberal theorists, the relationship and its evolution between and among nations in the global scene means a system of mutually beneficial cooperation, which could lead to increased interdependence and the improvement of equality between States. They essentially see relationship between nations in positive, peaceful and less volatile thus having the possibility of achieving world peace (Goldstein and Pavehouse, 2011: 85). Liberal theorists have also maintained that in the international political economy, cooperation creates great mutual benefits through trade; and that the threat to restrict trade among developed and developing nations through unfair practices is a strong incentive to comply with the rules and norms of institutions like World Trade Organisation (WTO), General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and the likes (Goldstein and Pavehouse, 2011: 87).

The model of development underlying this view is one that sees mutual benefits resulting from the further integration of African states into the world economy. Differently put, from this viewpoint, exploitative relations are absent and, rather, African development is dependent upon greater integration into the global economy (Taylor, 2010). On the other hand, scholars have argued that relations between developed and developing countries are that of unequal partners. Frank (1967, 1969) maintained, as developing countries having been colonized by Europe in a period of mercantile capitalist expansion makes its economy fully integrated into the global economy or world system[i]. This argument has influenced the dependency theorists to posit that the study of the relations between states is the study of imperialism and unequal exchange (Dos Santos, 1978: 77). For the purpose of clarification, we define dependence as: “a conditioning situation in which the economies of one group of countries are conditioned by the development and expansion of others.” (ibid)

Although the theory of dependency has many strands and variants, they all point to analyze and explain the deliberate attempt by a few powerful and dominant states on global stage to strangulate, stifle and pocket the economies as well as dominate the dependent states economically, politically and militarily (ibid). in another work, Dos Santos did a comprehensive explanation of dependency, which emphasizes the historical dimension of the dependency relationship (cited in Ferraro, 2008) where he noted that:

“Dependency is a situation in which the economy of a certain country is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy to which the former is subjected. The relations of interdependence between two or more economies, and between these and world trade, assumes the form of dependence when some countries (the dominant ones) can expand and can be self-starting, while other countries (the dependent ones) can do this only as a reflection of that expansion, which can have either a positive or a negative effect on their immediate development.”


In the contexts of dependency, we which to ask, why Nigeria must it will be a big deal if the US president visits or refuses to visit the country? Why must the US be interested in Nigeria presidential elections when Nigeria does little to influence the outcomes of US presidential elections? On the fight against terrorism, how does the US draw the line in terms of things that are purely internal and those that concerns relations between both countries? To whose benefits are the trading relations between both countries especially in the present glut in the international oil market? Will Nigeria still be of any value to the US should the present oil crisis continue? Why must it only be the US that Nigerian leaders seek for help to solve local issues when the country has is known to have historically disappointed Nigeria (a case in point was during the Nigerian civil war)?

In the light of dependency theory, we make our prognosis after critically analyzing the issues that shapes both countries’ relations.


The first officially recognized contact between Nigeria and the United States was when Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York represented President Eisenhower at Nigeria’s independence ceremonies on October 1, 1960. U.S. policy towards Nigeria in the Cold War was guided by two key issues: (1) containment of communist expansion; and (2) the provision of aid and the strengthening of bilateral economic ties. Then U.S. President Eisenhower’s message, for instance, assured Nigeria’s leaders of U.S. support but cautioned on possible threats coming from without–an ostensible reference to the former Soviet Union. But Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, did not wish his country’s newly won sovereignty and independence to be dragged into the Cold War rivalry between the East and West. In his speech on the admission of Nigeria into the United Nations, the Prime Minister stated that the country, as a matter of policy, would not be a member of any power bloc. Subsequently actions by Nigeria at the international level proved the country’s relative neutrality. During the Congo crisis of 1963, Nigeria supported the work of the U.N. by providing troops to the peacekeeping efforts in that crisis-ridden county. Nigeria also demonstrated moderation when the Brazzaville and Casablanca groups emerged as options to a future Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Much as the country professed political neutrality as far as East-West rivalry was concerned; it, nonetheless, was receptive of Western economic aid. It was in this context that a five-man US delegation visited Nigeria in June 1960 to study areas of possible economic cooperation. On the basis of the economic mission’s recommendations, the US announced that it would provide Nigeria with $225 million in economic development aid over five years.


According to the US State Department, “the primary interest of the US in Nigeria is to see it grow and prosper, within the Free World, as a leader and good example for their African countries.” Although the US share of trade and investments in Nigeria during the early years of independence was small compared to Britain’s, these bilateral ties were to sow the seeds of the future economic relations. On the whole, diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the United States remained generally amicable.

On January 15, 1966, a military coup overthrew the government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and a gradual, though clearly-discernible slide toward disunity and civil war was imminent. General Ironsi’s military regime which lasted six months had itself been overthrown in a counter coup leading to the emergence of Colonel (later General) Yakubu Gowon as Head of State, who was not recorgnised by Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu of the Eastern region. The outbreak of the war in 1967 did not initially mean much to the United States because the Vietnam War was on and Israel has launched a pre-emptive air raid on its Arab neighbours, which touched off the Six-Day War-the US was a staunch ally of Israel and supported the latter in its struggle against the Arab states. President Lyndon Johnson’s approach to Nigeria’s civil war was that it was a “British Affair”, and considering that there were no tangible American interests at stake, it was better to seer off the conflict as much as possible. An arms embargo was imposed on both sides and no serious consideration was given to recorgnising Biafra. The Nigerian federal government’s request for arms from the US and Britain refuted, compelling Nigeria to turn to the Soviet Union. The US criticism of the Soviets supply of aircraft was that it was an act in self-aggrandizement and was condemned by Lagos, which accused the US of disguised support for the Biafra. As the war intensified, and although the federal government’s criticism continued unabated, American reaction to the Civil War remained one of minimal intervention that was restricted to relief supplies through the international Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and urged compromise and settlement by the conflicting parties. At the end of the war in 1970, and despite the slightest hitches in Nigeria-US relations, diplomatic relations remained cordial.

Moreover, increased oil revenues for Nigeria after the civil war increased trade with the US, which was worth some $1.65 billion by 1974.

In the post-Nigeria civil war period, a number of events took place which, further led to strained Nigeria-US bilateral relations. In 1975, the Nigerian military invaded and occupied the US Information Service headquarters. This was followed by Nigerian government refusal to receive the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger on three occasions. The US Embassy was also attacked by demonstrators for alleged American complicity in the Angolan civil war and alleged American involvement in the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed (Lyman, 1988). American interest in Nigeria was, however, revived following Nigeria’s transition to civil rule and the adoption of the American style of presidential and federal systems in 1979. In 1983, the military took over power from the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. During the long period of military rule, which lasted between 1983 and 1999, Nigeria experienced generally, difficult relations with the United States. Several actions of the military juntas brought the nation in clear opposition to the US.

Transition to civil rule in 1999 saw the removal of visa restrictions, increased visits of high-level US officials, discussions of technical and financial assistance and the granting of Vital National Interest Certification on counter-narcotics paved way for closer political and diplomatic relations between both countries with Nigeria as a strategic partner in the West African sub-region Bola (2004) cited in (Mba, 2013: 30).


  1. Trade and Investment
  2. Security
  3. Military Cooperation
  4. Entrenching Democratic Tenets in Nigeria


Trade and Investment


This is one of the major aspects of Nigeria’s relations with the US since the return to civil rule in 1999. According to Alao (2011), Nigeria had prioritized trade in its relations with the US. There have been increased trade links between the two countries. Optimizing the relationship to improve Nigeria’s economy was central to Nigeria’s policy. There have also been persistent calls for US investments in Nigeria. Presently, key US investors in the Nigerian oil sector included Exxon/Mobil, Chevron and Western Geo-physical. Other US multinationals in Nigeria include the British American Tobacco Company, in the tobacco enterprise, the CitiBank, in the banking sector. As expected, oil is at the centre of most of the country’s trade with the US, and Nigeria continues to be one of its major crude oil exporters.

In the year 2000, the US and Nigeria signed a Trade & Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Data from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (Accessed September 2, 2013) reveals the following US-Nigeria trade facts: Nigeria is currently the US 23rd largest goods trading partner with $38.6 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2011. Goods exports totaled $4.8 billion; Goods imports totaled $33.7 billion. The US goods trade deficit with Nigeria was $28.9 billion in 2011. In exports, Nigeria was the United States’ 44th largest goods export market in 2011. US goods exports to Nigeria in 2011 were $4.8 billion, up 18.4% ($747 million) from 2010. The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2011 were: Cereals (wheat) ($1.2 billion), Vehicles ($1.1 billion), Machinery ($720 million), Mineral Fuel (oil) ($597 million), and Plastic ($187 million). US exports of agricultural products to Nigeria totaled $ 1.3 billion in 2011. Leading category is: wheat ($1.2 billion). In imports, Nigeria was the United States’ 16th largest supplier of goods imports in 2011. US goods imports from Nigeria totaled $33.7 billion in 2011, a 10.6% increase ($3.2 billion) from 2010. Nearly all of US imports from Nigeria were oil. US imports from Nigeria accounted for 1.5% of total U.S. imports for 2011. The five largest import categories in 2011 were: Mineral Fuel (oil) ($33.6 billion), Cocoa ($61 million), Rubber ($28 million), Special Other (returns) ($26 million), Food Waste ($6 million). US imports of agricultural products from Nigeria totaled $107 million in 2011. Leading categories include: cocoa beans ($56 million), and rubber ($28 million).




This is the second but very crucial aspect in Nigeria-US relations especially as it affects the global war against terrorism. Like any other concept in political science, definitions of terrorism are complex and controversial, and, because of the inherent danger and adverse effect of terrorism, the term in its popular usage has developed an intense stigma. According to Opukri and Ebienfa (2013), the difficulty in constructing a universally accepted definition of terrorism is a consequence of the existence of organizations and leaders that were formally branded as terrorist but eventually evolved into acceptable leaders and governments. This could be cleaned from the US terror watch list of suspects discovered in 2008 from FBI compilation which included Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist suspect. Although there is no agreement among scholars as to what constitutes terrorism, the United States’ Law 1987 (cited in Dupuy, 2004) defined ‘terrorist activity’ as “the organizing, abetting or participating in a wanton or indiscriminate act of violence with extreme indifference to the risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to individuals not taking part in the harm hostilities”. This definition would have been all-encompassing if the precision that the civilian population is the primary target of such acts is added. Thus, attacks on civilian populations, such as, the bombing of civilian populations, in such cases as, the bombing of civilian populations in cities by both sides in the Second World War, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc would all be qualified as terrorism. Thus, terrorism refers to the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective (Jenkins, 2013).

However, as Alao (2011) has pointed out, a major hiccup in the relations between the US and Nigeria came in December 2009 when a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was arrested during a failed attempt to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253, flying into Detroit from Amsterdam. Following the arrest, international community became the focus of international reactions and the immediate reaction of US was to place Nigeria on its “Terror Watch List”. As a result, removal from the watch list became a source of concern and foreign policy priority for Yar’Adua/Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. As Ameh and Ibrahim (2010) have pointed out, for dropping Nigeria from terror list, the US gave the following conditions:


  • Nigeria must join in a public condemnation of acts of terrorism wherever they occur in the world
  • Nigeria should take urgent steps to address security lapses at its airports;
  • Nigeria must be party to an agreement to deploy air marshals on all US-bound flights originating from Nigeria;
  • Nigeria’s anti-terrorism bill, then pending before the nation’s National Assembly should be passed into law.



It is pertinent to state that these conditions were reached after several diplomatic entreaties between the US and the Nigerian government. It is equally important to point out that, “Terror Watch List” is a list of countries that the US sees as supporting terrorism or terrorists. At that material time of Nigeria’s inclusion, other countries on the list were Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Algeria, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Kaarbo and Ray (2011:238) has, however, argued that “because of the moral judgment connected to the label terrorism, defining groups as terrorists (or states as supporting or sponsoring terrorism) has become a tool that political actors use to determine the legitimacy of their perceived enemies”. Thus, the US State Department…has no objective criteria for deciding when countries should be placed on or removed from list of states supporting terrorism, inclusion is a purely political decision (Long, 2000). This study observes that with the terms of the conditions, particularly urging Nigeria to urgently pass anti-terrorism bill, the United States was not only dictating for or imposing its decisions on a sovereign state, but interfering in the internal affairs – law making process of Nigeria.

Also, with this we can include the controversial kidnap of over 200 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state in 2014. Apart from the outage generated by the act, the involvement of the US marines soon became controversial. The US has alleged that U.S. officials expressed frustration with Nigeria’s inability to act on “fresh intelligence about the Boko Haram.” (Bennett, 2014). Allegations like these from both Nigerian and US authorities fuels the suspicions of the political undertones involved in both countries’ resolve to fight against terror.



Military Cooperation


Admittedly, the establishment of an armed forces (hereinafter “the military”) is covered by Section 217(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

Section 217(2)(a-b) stated that the Federation shall…equip and maintain the armed forces as

may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of:


  • defending Nigeria from external aggression;
  • maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violations on land, sea or air
  • suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so …. and
  • performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.



From the above stated provisions, and as Gilmore (cited in Eminue, 2006:45) has perceptively pointed out, “the military institution is concerned with the management and use of controlled violence in the service of the State. When the military institution veers from this role to participate in or to influence other, non-military agencies and functions of the State, including it leadership, then militarism exists in greater or lesser degree”. Thus, militarism, the exact opposite of democracy or democratization, is the preponderance of military values over those of the civil society (Eminue, 2006). During the protracted period of military rule in Nigeria, the military abandoned their traditional functions and as Klare (1980:37) put, “to assume ever increasing control over the lives and behaviour of its citizens,…increasingly to dominate national culture, education, the media, religion, politics and the economy at the expense of civilian institutions”.


Entrenching Democratic Tenets in Nigeria

The United States is concerned about strengthening democracy in Nigeria. Even at the height of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, when the United States selectively imposed sanctions on Nigeria, the sanctions, however, did not extend to other crucial aspects of the economy, such as trade in crude oil. Both countries have been hesitant in undertaking policies that could jeopardize their economic self-interests despite serious diplomatic and political disagreements.

The recent visit John Kerry, the US secretary of state, to Nigeria is something that has generated many interests. There were speculations in informed quarters that the US involvement in Nigeria’s election largely influenced the outcome of the election.




In the light of the oil price crash and the discovery of oil in countries like Ghana, we can project that, except Nigeria diversifies its economy, its relationship with the US may not be as viable as it would be. We say this in the light of the framework we used (Dependency Theory) we can conveniently forecast that the US may consider Nigeria a less strategic economic partner it has been. Through its subsidiaries explored and exploited the Nigerian crude oil to its great advantages. However, today there is no need to do so since the US has become the largest oil producer in the world followed by Saudi Arabia. The relationship between both countries will depend on the role Nigeria plays in the sub-Saharan Africa which is still fueled by domestic economic conditions.
We also recall the US supported lopsided trade relations with Nigeria, as it was (and still is) an import-dependent country within the economic agreement. We can predict that except Nigeria break the strangle-hold trade agreements Bretton Woods Intuitions like the World Bank, IMF etc, the relationship between both countries will still be lopsided in favour of the United States.
However, the US may still view Nigeria’s political influence (which still depends on its domestic economy) in West Africa as a source of advantage to strengthen its hegemony in the continent. This point is of critical importance in that the US may not only intend to take advantage of Nigeria’s economic potentials, but also its political credentials in the sub-region.

The US will continue to have influence on Nigerian presidential elections in the near future as was witnessed in2015. It is yet to be seen how long the “warm” relationship with the Buhari administration. But one thing is sure, the US will not for long curtail the human right abuses witnessed in the Abuja administration and the avowed commitments to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.

The United States has not shown many that it is truly committed to commitments to Nigerian’s interests going by their previous actions. In 2014, when the Nigerian foreign exchange earnings were depleted due to the global downturn in the oil prices, the United States, the top importer of the Nigerian oil, cancelled all import agreements. It left the nation high and dry in an effort to compound both economic and security issues, and bring Nigeria into confusion, anarchy and civil disobedience – coupled with Boko Haram insurgency – in order to actualize the doom prophecy of Nigeria’s breakup by that year. The secretary of state’s recent visit to a section of Nigeria also fuels this suspicion.


Although the US spokespersons at different forums denied the 2015 doom prophecy, it is on record that it had militarily invaded several weaker nations like Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Cuba, and made a subtle move to tinker with Gambia’s independence. In all these countries the US had deep-rooted economic/military interests.
With the recent visit of President Buhari to China, we expect deliberations that would establish the US presence and sincere supply of military hardware to battle Boko Haram. We may also witness limited American support in the fight against terrorism considering the fact that it will be facing stiff competition from China!
With the passing of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by the US Congress in 2012, the official dependence of Africans on US domestic economic conditions appears to have gotten to full scale. Under the Act, the US president has the discretionary powers to determine the eligibility of the African countries that will benefit under AGOA. With that being the case, the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US may have some rippling effects on African countries, especially Nigeria, under the Act (Mba, 2013). The economic sanction order allegedly given by the US president to the Trade Representative Office which coordinates US international trade issues like AGOA may not be unconnected with the Nigerian Senate passing the bill against same-sex marriage even though it is yet to become a law (Mba, 2013). It is yet to be seen how the issues will be handled under the Buhari administration which seem to have the support of Washington.

The issue of environmental degradation and pollution in the Niger-Delta is still on the front burner in the Nigeria-US relations. Since the major casualties are US-owned multinational companies, the issue will continue to shape the relations between both countries in the near future. No matter what happens to the price of oil, the region will continue to remain volatile as a result of the unresolved issues involving the Nigerian federation. The dependency nature of Nigerian leaders towards the US and the multinational companies who perpetrate these acts with impunity means the crisis in the region will be more complicated as the years go by except Nigeria reviews its relationship with the US to make it more mutually beneficial.

The US has (and will) continued to make Nigeria economically and politically dependent on her through policies like AGOA. Except Nigerian leaders break that stronghold in the years to come, policies made in Abuja will continue to be conditioned by events in Washington no matter how unbeneficial they are to Nigerians which is strongly against the liberalists views of mutually beneficial relationship among states.

As we write, untold amounts of crude oil leaves the shores of Nigeria on daily basis which are unaccounted for. Several accusations have been made to leading American oil companies on this matter. Attempts by Nigerian authorities to investigate or curb this ugly trend have been frustrated by their agents or “comprador bourgeoisie” who wields so much influence in Nigeria. Thus, we can predict that Nigerian politicians will continue to go cap in hands to Washington begging for every simple economic and political aid in the years to come.

Mba (2103: 32) noted: “With the US economic policy invoke, Nigeria will be over dependent on the United States on economic and socio-political issues thereby serving as a rubber stamp in the hands of the US government. The US economic policies will make our economy to be ineffective to some extent and will have an interference with the nation’s economic policies and this is a bad omen.” (ibid)

The recent visit of John Kerry to Nigeria and his meeting with some politicians from one part of the country and the thrust of the discussions still shredded in secrecy or the reasons for his visit in the first instance fuels speculations of some sinister motives at play. Visiting at a time when the polity is strongly heated along ethno-religious lines; when the voices of some separatists movements are growing louder and their actions fast taking violent dimensions, may only increase the already-heated polity.

While it may be true that Nigeria has the ambition for permanent membership of the United Nations (UN) Security Council seat and will require the support of the US and other great powers in achieving that objective, we can predict that Nigeria will continue to maintain a friendly relation with the US.


From the study, it is clear that Nigeria’s bilateral relations with the United States spanned the entire years of the country’s existence as a sovereign nation. Of note, every aspect of the intercourse, particularly the four key areas examined in this study, have been increasingly driven by the US pursuit of its pragmatic national interests while perpetuating foreign dependency, domination and exploitation on the nation, thus exerting some negative external forces on domestic programmes.

Although Nigeria requires development partners on the global stage to contribute to its democratic developments, it cannot depend solely on the United States to realize her aspirations. In order to exploit foreign policy as an instrument of national transformation, Nigeria’s foreign relations, especially its bilateral relations, must now be prioritized. As the nation continues to pursue its foreign policy agenda in the under the democratic dispensation, this study recommend, among other things, that Nigeria should concentrate its foreign policy attention and resources on cultivating special bilateral relationships with countries that are strategic to its development aspirations as an emerging industrial, political and regional power.

Nigeria should henceforth engage primarily in those relations that are potentially strategic to the nation’s national transformation.

As Ate (2001) had earlier suggested, countries with which Nigeria should forge a special relationship, based on economic, democratic and security considerations might include Germany, France, China, Malaysia and India. In economic sphere, the strategic options that are available to Nigeria derived from the ability of the policy makers to develop a programme of systematic exploitation of the vital indices of relations with a strategic country and international institutions to advance the economic transformation agenda. These options should focus on a creative manipulation of channels of foreign direct investments, development assistance, trade ties, military relations and technological-scientific flows. It is crucial for Nigeria to maintain a strong and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship with the United States because of the central importance of America in the global economy, politics and international security. The Nigerian-American partnership must be constructed and managed in strategic terms, on the broad model of America’s relationship with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan after World War II. These countries achieved economic modernization largely because the United States invested in their security and created opportunity for them to adopt Western capital, investment and skills to development. If since independence the Nigerian foreign policy thrust has been hinged on a non-alignment doctrine, therefore, despite enticement or coaxing by Barack Obama’s administration, Nigeria should assert its prerogative to associate and trade with whatever nation without let or hindrance.
Since Nigeria is interested in the permanent membership seat of the UN Security Council, we recommend a total review of the country’s foreign policy especially as it relates to the big powers. Relations are based on values, not on mere associations with the big powers. If Nigeria does not possess the values to add to the big powers, disappointments will become inevitable when the country needs them most. Improving domestic political and economic conditions by which we mean creating stable political and economic order to project Nigeria as a strong candidate for the role. We wish to add that achieving that ambition is more than just by relating with the US. Domestic economic, political and social factors may in the long run takes precedence over just relating with the US when the deciding moments come.

It is on record that the big powers have abandoned us on at least two historical occasions when we needed them most in international politics. We are quick to recall Nigeria’s losing the contest for UN secretary-general to Ghana in the 1990s and the US snub when the nation signified her intention to contest for the World Bank presidency in 2012.






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[i] World System Theory is actually advocated by Immanuel Wallerstein (1974) in his book, The Modern World System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteen Century. (New York: Academic Press) 

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